Friday, July 29, 2005

...BUT NOT FOR THEE. 4:30 pm: Michelle Malkin has some fun with saggy nude protestors in Berkeley.

5:13 pm: Michelle Malkin is against "pathetic leftist attacks on conservatives' physical appearance."

Given how often this sort of thing happens nowadays, I'm surprised that I can still notice. As one of my commenters recently remarked, "Does the word 'hypocrite' even exist anymore?"

Thursday, July 28, 2005

SIGNS OF A DEEPER ILLNESS. I'd heard about Theodore Dalrymple, and imagined that he was all about how there's too much spittin' and swearin' and friggin' and frugin' these days. Well, I underestimated him. To hear Dalrymple tell it, the problem with kids these days, and adults these days, is not Desperate Housewives or Britney Spears... it's Henrik Ibsen!

Yes, A Doll's House, Ghosts, Hedda Gabbler -- they were not just plays, but propaganda vehicles meant to convince people to "express their true nature unmediated by the distortions of society" -- leading to the 20th Century, with its spittin' and swearin' and friggin' and frugin' and Holocausts. Here is a prime example of Dalrymple's analytic method, in which he reacts to Parson Manders' willful ignorance in Ghosts:
Coming from a character whom Ibsen scorns as ridiculous and bigoted, these words, which contain an obvious truth, are meant to be rejected out of hand. In Ibsen’s philosophy, everyone -- at least Nature’s aristocrats, for in fact Ibsen was no egalitarian or democrat -- must examine every question for himself and arrive at his own answer: for example, whether the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is historically true -- or at least historically true for him.
This is wrong in so many ways -- is Dalrymple aware that Jefferson, surely a democrat, believed in a natural aristocracy? -- but that citation of the infamously anti-Semitic Protocols is in whole 'nother league of intellectual thuggery, attempting to daub Ibsen with the scent of Auschwitz, toward the end of...

... of what? I think our dear, daffy Kulturkampf is entering a new phase. It is not just low-riding jeans or foul-mouthed MCs that our would-be Truth Ministers would abolish -- they want the decks cleared good and proper, and that means uprooting everything, root and branch, that ever led to any insolence or insubordination whatsoever. Doesn't matter how splendid the artistic achievement -- if it ever made a prole who got within sniffing distance of it rise up on his hind legs and question his lot, then it obviously enabled the death camps*.

For bonus enjoyment visit Roger L. Simon's approving thread, particularly this guy, who starts here --
Prostitution used to be the poor man's outlet for relationship/sexual discontent. For an hour or two you can have the "perfect" woman.

In our enlightened times prostitution is discouraged.

So now instead of the evils of prostitution we get the evils of broken marraige.

Care to tell me which course of action is better?
-- and just gets further and further out.

(* -- pre-emptive demurrer: I do not mean by this that prole-stiffening potential is the hallmark of art; art may cause all kinds of effects -- side-effects, they might be -- besides the sublimnity which makes it self-identifying to the open-eyed.)
KEEP SETTIN' 'EM UP, I'LL KEEP KNOCKING 'EM DOWN. I haven't written about The Corner much lately. This is almost a respectful silence. Not that I respect them, but the place has that eerie liferaft-after-two-weeks feeling about it. The heavily subsidized National Review will never allow these folks to drown in anything but their own bullshit, though. Today's topic of discussion, believe it or not: the Geena Davis sitcom Commander in Chief.

"Have you suspected that this show seems designed to make President Hillary more plausible, since Hollywood liberals like Billy Bob Thornton believe the American people are grumpy sexists?" thunders Tim Graham. Thunder I: wha huh wha? I think Graham is referring to this interview snippet, in which Thornton merely questions the receptiveness of the American electorate to female Presidential candidates -- a reasonable sentiment, considering how few we've had and how badly they've done. Thornton doesn't use the term "grumpy sexists," but that may because he was trying to insinuate himself with ordinary Americans, in furtherance of the liberal plot to make Hitlery plausible! It's amazing they find time to make movies and TV shows.

Jonah Goldberg: "Oh, and then there's problem that Geena Davis is no longer watchable..."

...since bukkake manga replaced her in my bedtime "special place."

Thank you, I'll be here all week.
THE ART OF CARICATURE. CityJournal runs an article on right-wing cartoons. Credit to author Harry Stein: he knows a quick buck when he sees it -- most of the piece is Stein describing several Mallard Fillmore strips. It must have been as easy to write as it is painful to read.

It is of course hilarious to read right-wing affirmative-action hires like Mallard's Bruce Tinsley bitch about diversity. Even funnier is a marked tendency among this lot -- see if you can spot it:
[At Tinsley's middle school,] "One time, a girl sheepishly admitted that she wanted to be a homemaker -- and she was ridiculed not only by most of the other girls in the class, but by the teacher. These were the people who talked about ‘totalitarians’ and ‘thought police’"...

Tinsley even gets death threats. “These liberals are so sweet and gentle, they wouldn’t harm a baby seal,” he laughs. “But I guess I’m fair game"...

(Prickly City's) Stantis, like Tinsley, got a stiff dose of liberal hypocrisy growing up -- in his case, in Madison, Wisconsin, less than a mile from one of the nation’s most radical campuses. At 13 (he’s 46 today, again like Tinsley), he worked on the Nixon campaign, and “on several occasions,” he recalls, “the peace-loving McGovern types threw bricks through the window. After all, you can only be so tolerant... I get hundreds of vicious e-mails a week. I mean, the crudity and intolerance of the Left these days is unbelievable..."

... [Tinsley's] wife is a civil rights lawyer. There’s perhaps a lesson here. "It’s a funny thing,” Tinsley says. “All her liberal friends are incredulous that our marriage works, but none of my conservative friends have any trouble with it at all. They understand you can think differently about things and still be civil to one another."

Almost immediately, this observation leads Tinsley to reflect on something else. “You ever notice how often liberals seem to think that, because they hold these lofty social views, it excuses them from having to be civil to bellboys and cabdrivers? I really think that by and large conservatives are just much nicer"...
I was frankly disappointed to learn that the imbecilic caricatures of liberals in their lousy strips were not derived from a template created by the American Enterprise Institute, but apparently reflect the authors' visions -- they actually believe liberals are all intolerant, hate-mailing, brick-throwing, future-housewife-harrassing, low-tipping scum.

If they were cynically creating dull stereotypes to get over in an undemanding marketplace, instead of just plain stupid, I might have had some respect for them.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

WHAT DO THEY KNOW LESS ABOUT -- CULTURE, OR WAR? Lastest culture-war stand at NRO: Cheryl Rhoads disses Michael Moore filmfest, and runs down what she imagines to be the political content of a couple of movies shown therein, including the Kevin Bacon drama The Woodsman, of which she says
The general spin of the script is that the world just isn’t giving a sporting second chance to sex offenders. There’s subtle indoctrination here, and in the end, it seems, it could change the minds of those who support measures to alert local communities to the presence of child molesters. In deliberately choosing to stage his film festival in the heartland, Moore yearns to moderate himself in the eyes of ordinary Americans, and in doing so, to conceal what most people would consider an extremely radical agenda. The Woodsman is a case in point...
I haven't seen the picture, but I note that Rhoads' analysis differs radically not only from any mainstream review of The Woodsman I've seen, but also from those of Christian reviewer Darrell Manson ("As hard as it may be for us to fathom, God is willing to forgive even those like Walter if they seek God’s forgiveness"), Instapundit-endorsed BlogCritics ("a good choice for fans of more serious and thought-provoking dramas"), Arts & Faith -- and, at National Review itself, the very conservative Roger L. Simon ("The script, although still a little bound to its theatrical roots, is worthy and Ms. Kassell's direction is first rate... See it when you can").

Please remember this, folks: not everything is politics. People who write about works of art as if they were position papers or campaign ads are merely dumbly manipulating cultural artifacts to achieve their own small goals, as a chimpanzee might use a DVD to dig in the earth. They themselves have no idea what culture is, nor what it's for.

EXAMINING AN UNATTENDED PACKAGE. Commenter Mooser points me to this humdinger from the "Christian Communications Network," Mass ResistanceWatch has picked it up, but I feel a little nervous about it. Surely they can't be a legitimate wingnut organization. "Gays Twice as Apt to Drive Under the Influence says Family Research Institute"? "This is further evidence that gays' devil-may-care attitude toward sex spills into other areas as well"? I smell Black Ops.

So I did a little research, in the time-honored, easy-and-fun tradition of Citizen Journamalism, and found that the research org the CCN quotes, Family Research Institute, has a website, which is the ultimate signifier of authenticity, right? FRI seems gay-obsessed, and its site has some riveting commentary on such pressing subjects as gay penguins, but I could find no reference to the driving study.

Also, the first Google citation (I tell ya, those years of training are paying off!)for the CCN (aka Christian Wire Service) reveals a page that does not mention the Driving While Sodomite study. It's a fun place anyway, of course; particularly good is the story about how PETA abuses animals, which charge is flogged by a group that defends both medical and consumer-product testing on animals, and seeks to soothe your conscience about blinded bunnies and whatnot.

The "earnedmedia" server Mooser cited does house some of CCN's files, but I am going to wait a bit and see if they denounce the gay driving article. After all, we want to be cautious about this sort of thing, and refrain from jumping the gun -- just as our colleagues in the conservative blogosphere waited to see whether Pfc. Foster Barton really was beaten up by Democratic activists, rather than by a garden-variety former-serviceman/goon, before hanging the rap on the Dems, and just as they are now most judiciously weighing the facts in that Ohio flag-burning case...

Oh, what am I saying? Run with that sucker!

UPDATE. Some of my readers have done research (where do they get the time?) and put their findings in comments. It doesn't look good for FRI's Doc Cameron. I recommend he abandon the science racket, and publish in mainstream rightwing mags, where his honorific will make a nice epaulet on the byline and may even buy him a syndication deal. Then he can casually but authoritatively mention in his columns that his opponents are mad, and his readers will sagely nod. It worked for Charles Krauthammer!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

BE PREPARED. Mark Krikorian at NRO:
Tod Lindberg has a thoughtful, epithet-free critique of Tancredo's Mecca comments in his column today. His most important point: in case there is a terrorist nuclear attack on us, "the authorities had better figure out a response that does justice to Americans' righteous anger. Otherwise they will likely be voted out in favor of someone promising more decisive action."
While it's nice that some conservatives (even the normally rabid Hugh Hewitt) are rejecting Tancredo's call to bomb Mecca if terrorists nuke a U.S. city, I must say I'm disappointed that Lindberg does not propose an single "response" that would do "justice to Americans' righteous anger" (though I'm pleased, tickled even, by his keen interest in the electoral fallout, so to speak, of the situation).

Projecting myself into the role of conservative post-nuclear spin doctor (it's easy for me -- I have a cabinet full of cleaning fluids and an outsized sense of entitlement), I can dream up several:
  • Global Toby Keith Network -- U.S. jams all radio signals worldwide, forces planet to listen to jingoistic new country tunes (such as "Grandma's Glowin', So I'm Goin' to War," "Kiss My Radiation-Damaged Ass," etc.) commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts.
  • By executive order, America's biggest stars are compelled to do "The More You Know" spots about doctrinal flaws in the Koran ("'Jihad' is 'struggle'?" says Bruce Willis, "I don't think so").
  • National Chamber of Commerce member companies allow staff to wear "Ayatollah Assahole-ah" t-shirts on Casual Fridays.
  • Giant inflatable middle fingers from sea to shining sea.

KISS THAT SHEEPSKIN GOODBYE. College costs have skyrocketed in recent years. The Republican solution: remove students' protection from interest fluctuations on student loans.
Under the government's consolidation program, former students can lock in a low fixed rate while the interest rate the government guarantees to banks remains tied to the 91-day T Bill... Now, as interest rates are rising again, Uncle Sam is on the hook for an estimated $14 billion, not including loans consolidated in the past year.

To make sure this never happens again, [House Education Committee Chairman John] Boehner & Co. would require students either to continue paying a variable rate after they consolidate their loans or pay a premium for locking in a fixed rate, as happens in the private sector...
The advertised merit of this plan is that it will save the Government money by reducing the amount it invests in the higher education of its young citizens, and prevent Congress from "isolating academia from normal consumer pressure by shielding most students (and their parents) from the true cost of higher education."

That's a lovely spin. Once the magic of the marketplace is allowed to work, we may assume, college costs will plummet, and more families will be able to afford to pay them. It worked great in the 19th Century!

Should this desired and ludicrous effect not take place, even those willing to put themselves deep in hock will not get to college. "Private lenders," the author tells us, "would have that much more incentive to do their jobs properly, making sure taxpayer-backed loans go to students who are good risks." They surely won't take a chance on slackers like Jenny Read:
Jenny Read works 32 hours a week while attending the University of Wisconsin-Superior full time.

Still, the social work major has had to take out student loans each of the four years she's attended college.

"It's rather scary. I already feel like I'm in debt to my eyeballs," she said. "It's scary to know that you only have a six-month grace period before you have to start paying these back. If you don't find a job, you still have to pay these loans back"...

For Read, there's no alternative to student loans, without which she wouldn't be able to afford college.

"There's no way my parents can help me," she said.
You got in just under the wire, Jenny. I hope you don't have a little sister with similar ambitions.

The increased access to higher education that began with the old GI Bill has been nose-diving for some time, and this ought to work like a karate chop to the back of the neck.

I suppose the upside is that they won't be exposed to any liberal professors.

Monday, July 25, 2005

A JOG 'ROUND THE ASYLUM. While I enjoy The Poor Man's Wingnutty Awards, honoring moronism of the highest order, in these sluggish midsummer days I prefer the simple pleasures of garden-variety stupid.

Jim Lileks complains that liberals make jokes about Lynne Cheney being gay, which he finds so tired and dull that he must go on about it for three paragraphs. At least, it starts like that, then quickly veers into "As if there’s anything about wanting a lower marginal tax rate or a 500-ship Navy that says thou must also castigate the sodomites," and Hillary is against gay marriage so there. It's a great, self-pitying muddle -- why do those homosexuals insist on making me feel uncool when I just bought a guitar amp? But this often happens when Lileks comes in contact with teh gay. In this golden oldie, for example, gay folk do him a similar disservice by insisting on marriage, which Lileks seems to think involves a legislative four-way with him, his wife, and his widdle girl. "No matter how much I may support gay rights," he sighs, "in the final analysis my belief that my daughter needs a dad brands me as a reactionary." And that's just not right! Lileks, eternal victim of the sneers and japes of homosexuals, reminds me of this guy. (After that, the long incoherent roar about the Roberts' family clothes and how some guy in the Washington Post doesn't appreciate proper shirts and ties -- "I stand up straighter... I feel obliged to be more respectful" -- is more concordance than any of us needs.)

In an otherwise unreadable essay about how Terrorists are Bad, Caleb Carr offers a gem regarding the London attacks:
...Early polls suggest that the majority of the British public has been sharply and tragically reminded of what its true interests and who its true friends are, whatever the momentary shortcomings of this or that government or administration in London or Washington. Is this only a temporary reaction to outrage? Perhaps, but this much is certain: While we in the West, in our efforts to defeat al Qaeda's terrorist network, occasionally elect unwise or even duplicitous leaders and courses of action, there is no lack of wisdom so profound (to paraphrase the often duplicitous FDR) as that produced by fear...
If, as Carr's prose assures, the reader has drifted off when he approaches this section, he will awaken in a logical thicket: if Carr thinks it's so great that Britons have been scared into righthink by the bombings, why speak so badly of fear so soon after? Carr must have been writing on deadline, for rather than go back and fix the passage, he goes on about " ignorant protestors and careless celebrities" who "do the terrorists' work for them." That'll distract 'em! Getaway, Carr!

Meanwhile congratulations Jeff Goldstein on causing the balloons to drop with the 10,000th blogpost to date on how liberals are losing the war and killing our soldiers. Boy, the President is rightwing, both houses of Congress are rightwing, most governors are rightwing, all the cool kids are rightwing -- we are assured every day that liberals are a dying, impotent, spore of mold in the dustbin of history -- and yet somehow we determine the course of the World War Whatever with our mere words (which no one reads)! Let us gather in Berkeley, people, and sneer for peace!

UPDATE. Goldstein says I "alter" his "terminology." Yeah, I'm the Reader's Digest of the Left. But have I misrepresented him? In comments he seems to say that I have (hope I got that part right; I am notoriously unable to read clearly). Well, let's see: his post refers to Democratic Party leaders Ted Kennedy, Carl Levin, "Dick" and "Howard" (I think he means Durbin and Dean, but I may be wrong), and bases their ignominy on the investigation of wrongdoing at Guantanamo, and proclaims, in all caps, that THE LEFT LIED AND LONDONERS DIED! That covers an awful lot of ground, and seems to imply (again, tell me if I'm reaching here) that vocal concern for reliable reports of prisoner abuse provides "rhetorical cover" for terrorists, which in turns kills Londoners.

And all this is based on a terrorist's relative saying the terrorist wanted to get back at us for Gitmo. I guess we better not say anything that pisses off terrorists.

UPDATE 2. Goldstein points readers to a site where they can buy "Liberals Lied, Londoners Died" t-shirts. Clearly no reasonable person seeing the shirt would think it was aimed at liberals en masse. And a person wearing a YANKEES SUCK t-shirt might be referring to Oliver Wendell Holmes and Titus Moody.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

DEPRESSING ARTIFACT OF THE DAY: An argument against gay marriage by a gay guy at Opinion Journal. It is long, dissertation long, and has close reasoning, references to Maimonedes and Hayek and Karl Popper and Easter Island and the Shakers etc., and passages like this delivered in an audibly high tone:
The visceral code is like the DNA of the community: It tells us what behavior must be passed on through the social emotions of shame, honor and pride. It demands that we behave; it molds us and makes us, just as our parents do, for their doing is always its doing... We cannot ask whether the visceral code is useful to the community when it is in fact constitutive of the community: It is the foundation on which the community is built. It is a necessary precondition of achieving community at all, and hence it is improper to evaluate it in terms of its mere utility.
But when it comes time to actually measure the gay marriage case against these exacting standards, what do we get? The usual denigration of self-esteem -- not even self-esteem in extremis, but self-esteem per se ("But our insistence on creating self-esteem in an 8-year-old boy comes with a high price tag -- by refusing to encourage the boy's dissatisfaction with himself as he is.." -- we prevent him from hating himself for failing to come up later, fool; look at the sadly belligerent cases on any city's police blotter, with their Thug Life or Born to Lose tattoos, and ask yourself, are these people really suffering from too much self-esteem?). A comparison of gay marriage to a stranger asking to take "your 8-year-old daughter" for a ride -- the nearest thing to just drawing a picture of the Devil in our modern discourse. And a wide-angle projection of disgust for gay marriage even onto its advocates ("This is why for most people, including many gay men and women, the immediate response to the idea of gay marriage came at the gut level--it somehow felt funny and wrong..."), without a citation or even, so far as I can tell, the possibility of citation outside the author's own self-loathing community.

It's not so depressing that arguments against gay marriage exist -- well, okay, it is. It's not even so depressing that they are so lousy -- actually, that's kind of funny. What's really depressing is that they apparently come gussied up as intellectual arguments, with ten-dollar words and references to ancient philosophers. We have grown used to the alternative realities proposed by conservatives when reality contradicts them, but it is a bit jarring to see some of them in hound's-tooth and mortarboards, sucking briar pipes, playing at professor while talking (in sentences of whatever length, and with howsoever many footnotes) absolute gibberish.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

SHORTER JAMES LILEKS: Stupid liberals, always invoking Rick Santorum! What a predictable, knee-jerk response. Why, I bet they'd vote for... (reaches into bag, pulls out effigy) the Klansman Robert Byrd! Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. And for my encore, some incomprehensible raving about Jackson Pollock, termites, and single mothers.

UPDATE. Fixed link. You can also go here to see Lileks decry rap music, cursing, and anti-social behavior. Alternately, you can get pretty much the same thing here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

IN WITH THE OUT CROWD. Michael Totten -- reacting, it would seem, to unkind comments made at this very site about the new centrist enterprise, Donklephant, with which he is involved -- denounces the left as an "exclusive bitchy little high school clique" that imagines itself "surrounded by rightwing boogeymen." Conservatives, on the other hand, are "in general... more comfortable with centrists than are liberals in general." The left, Michael concludes, is plagued by a "loathing of heretics."

Well, all in all it's better than being called Fifth Columnists, as we were in the days when Andrew Sullivan was the internet model of sweet reason. But "clique" is an interesting choice of word. How are my readers any more of a clique than the charming folks who fill Michael's comments with denunciations of evil libruldom?

"When Bush mentions democracy," one such commenter says, "liberals friends of mine just roll their eyes because, I'm sad to say, they have ceased believing in it." Many of us would suggest an alternate reason, of course -- and maybe that feeds the perception of cliquishness: There's a lot of eye-rolling at this site, and some people are not comfortable with that sort of dismissive attitude -- especially if they identify themselves so strongly with democracy, freedom, etc., that when they are mocked they imagine those things are being mocked as well, or perhaps exclusively.

In this sort of dynamic -- for instance, to take Michael's analogy, high school -- non-joiners, however small and powerless a unit they comprise, are imagined to be committing some sort of offense against the joiners. Given the near-universal contempt in which liberals are held these days, I hardly imagine we are the football team or student government of Michael's high school. Buncha losers smoking cigarettes behind the gym, more like.

I expect we will be further marginalized in the days to come, as there is little doubt that centrism is the coming thing. Hugh Hewitt, for example, lays claim to something called the "center-right blogosphere." According to Hewitt, the "left-wing blogosphere" -- including such wild-eyed Jacobins as Kevin Drum -- are incapable of reasonable analysis because they get their information from "old plumbing" (i.e. newspapers, television, and radio) which, being made of "lead," is "poisoning the information they are distributing, and the consequence is the slow poisoning of the Democratic Party," leaving us with "lousy logic and terrible habits of mind."

Center-rightists, on the other hand, have shiny new pipes made of Internet, and because the information going through those pipes stays Springtime-fresh, the center-right is "much, much more fact specific," "much less prone to vulgarity, profanity or the sort of personal attacks that create barriers to new readership," "simply more professional about its reporting, and more vigorous in its reporting," and in general "simply light years ahead of the left." And "funnier," "more skilled with words," etc. No word yet as to whether they would beat us in a softball game, but I'm guessing he thinks so.

One might argue that Hewitt is just a straight-up conservative sticking a centrist label on his stuff. But really, is there any other qualification for membership? Hewitt's just reaching out, hoping to find consensus.

If you want me, I'll be out behind the gym.

UNHYPHENATED CENTRISM UPDATE! Michael links to some guy who became a centrist because his liberal workmates forced him to watch In Living Color and Martin. A commenter concurs: "That was a really weird time in this country. Even though my school was at least 65% white, people tried to identify witht the black culture to the point of being called 'white' was actually an insult." I musta been taking a nap during this Black Supremacist era -- tell me, is that how O.J. got acquitted?
DISORDER AND EARLY SORROW. Saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I can’t speak to its faithfulness to the book, which I haven’t read – my Dahl knowledge is restricted to The Big Friendly Giant and a corking old mystery story called "Man from the South"—but I can say that it is perfectly consistent with Tim Burton.

Burton has great showmanship, and I used to think that his less successful efforts, like Sleepy Hollow and Planet of the Apes, were the ones where it ran away with him. If he had a better artistic track record than Cecil B. DeMille, I figured, it was only because he had a proper arts education, and thus was compelled to channel his Barnumite gusto into whatever style he deduced was appropriate. My favorite of his films, Ed Wood, may be as low-key (relatively) as it is because Burton internalized the real Wood’s club-footed style, which disarmed his usual apparati and left the wonderful story, relationships, and acting to provide the special effects. (In my second favorite, Batman Returns, the script is so absurdly florid that even Burton in full effulgence can do no better than match it.)

Charlie’s style is perhaps Burton’s most egregious hodgepodge since Mars Attacks!. The references range from the Dickensian 19th Century to some Warchowskian future. The property’s big problem -- how to make sense of the parents’ grotesquely underscaled reaction to their children’s disfigurement -- is completely ignored; the grown-ups just stand around looking stupid while their kids are inflated, discarded, extruded, etc. Burton even sticks on a new ending that, while fine in itself, seems to reduce the eventful voyage through the factory to a grisly joke about Willy Wonka's father issues. At one point even the usually game David Kelly ran out of ways to register astonishment at all the marvels, and looked positively wrung out.

I enjoyed it nonetheless. I'm not sure why. It may be that Burton has exceeded Mach Roy, the velocity at which showmanship overrides my objections to -- well, anything. It is an embarrassing admission, but the guy might have just outgunned my intellect. Me like pretty colors and Danny Elfman!

Or it may be that Burton's logic is subtler than it looks. Seen this way, the bad old world really isn't so much different from era to era -- only the art direction changes, if not as capriciously as here. The children's come-uppances are no worse, though more accelerated and fanciful, than what any greedy, over-ambitious, self-centered, or plain depraved kids might experience in the world outside their parents' control; and their parents' reactions only look strange because they're having them on the spot, instead of wondering stupidly at kitchen tables years later where they have failed. And Willy Wonka's psychology may be perfectly sound, given his intolerable burden of pleasing children, and the child he has steadfastly determined to remain, with sensory palliatives that never fill their, or his, bottomless need.

<wonkavoice>Well! That sounds kinda creepy, doesn't it? So maybe you wanna just get yourself down to the movies and see for yourself. 'Kay?</wonkavoice>

UPDATE. Corrected name of Dahl story I read as a kid. I found "Man from the South" (which I had previously confused with Bloch's "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper")in one of those Alfred Hitchcock collections popular in my youth. They usually had titles like Stories to Make You Plotz or something like that; mine was called Spellbinders in Suspense (this is what my copy looked like -- without the Hitchock autograph, of course -- though there are apparently alternate versions). Spellbinders had "The Most Dangerous Game," DuMaurier's "The Birds," the Dahl story, stuff by Edgar Wallace, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Agatha Christie, etc. This is what we had instead of Harry Potter, folks, and it was just fine.

Monday, July 18, 2005

JUNIOR ANTI-SEX LEAGUE, PART #134,789. "The Party was trying to kill the sex instinct, or, if it could not be killed, then to distort it and dirty it. He did not know why this was so, but it seemed natural that it should be so. And as far as the women were concerned, the Party's efforts were largely successful." George Orwell, guess what book.

Carrie Lukas decries the alleged sexual promiscuity of Washington's female interns. Lukas hails from the Independent Women's Forum, at whose website you can read how The March of the Penguins provides good role-modeling for human families, or at least those human families that live in arctic wastelands and have brains the size of cashews. (Isn't there something weird and hippie-ish about comparing human family dynamics unfavorably to those of wild animals? How did this become a rightwing thing?)

The group does enjoy some laughs that are not clinically hysterical -- for instance, much glee is had over silly podiatrists who try to keep women from their fancy shoes. But on the subject of sex, the peals of girlish laughter subside, and the IWF ladies turn grim as death. Hence this study, which is of interest only to those of us who get a mild thrill hearing about young people in power suits gittin' it awn, and to culture scolds.

If you don't have time to read this whole post, here are some of the key words and phrases found in Lukas' article: thong-snapping seduction, vixen, over-sexed cesspool, casual physical encounter, meaningful relationship, alcohol-fueled hook-up lifestyle. Context doesn't add much to it, believe me, but read on if so inclined:

The meat of Lukas' story is am IWF poll of 200 D.C. interns. 44 percent of them admit to "hooking up" and "40 percent of congressional interns admitted to engaging in 'intimate activities' that they otherwise may not have participated in while under the influence" of alcohol. Only 1 percent admitted to knowing anything about any live, hot legislator-intern action.

Young adults having sex! Stop the presses! But Lukas is concerned. The percentage of interns who have sex has doubled since 2003, she writes. "Why should anyone care that drinking and hooking up are a part of the typical Capitol intern experience — chalk it up to harmless fun and life experience, right?" she asks in a moment of sanity which, alas, passes: "…research shows that many young women experience serious regret after engaging in such encounters."

In other scientific developments, many 21-year-olds fail to plan for retirement, say things they later regret, and find Adam Sandler funny. Regrets, we greybeards know, are part of life. But this is more serious, I guess, because it involves penises and/or vaginas -- so serious Lukas proposes "a running dialogue about the drawbacks of existing traditions and practices so that a healthier culture can develop."

Sister, that dialogue's been running in conservative publications since the days when Malcolm Forbes cruised the West Side on his Harley. Since the primary purpose of this dialogue (or, to be more specific, series of soapbox perorations) is to stimulate outrage among scolds, which can then be transmitted to a gullible public, it will probably never end so long as a few votes can be wrung out of it.

Throughout Lukas speaks of Washington interns as if they were Girl Guides between the ages of 12 and 16. It would be astonishing that a group devoted to the empowerment of women seem to regard sex as some sort of malign force, like terrorism, that persons of the female persuasion can't handle without help from a think tank. Maybe Scaife or somebody should feel them a few mill to produce some TV ads with headlines like "Prayer Meetings: The Anti-Sex."

How stupid do they think we are? Well, they're probably right.

Friday, July 15, 2005

RETURN TO TODAY'S TOONS! Encouraged by my first visit, I returned this afternoon to Free Republic's Today's Toons page. It really saved my Friday. My compliments to the chafed!

TT is reaching out to the Michael Totten constituency: Chris Muir is on board to encourage the elect that not all them urban, black-wearin' coffee-drinkers is librul traitors. Here he makes a gag about the "flypaper" theory -- see, you pull out of Iraq, and terrorists will wind up in big Western cities like London! He also essays a Plame strip, though I vastly prefer this one, apparently done by the same fellow that took last week's prize, and which also explains its own joke. I hope this is a series. I can't wait to see Plame and Wilson as Ignatz and Krazy Kat, Harry and Sally, Sacco and Vanzetti!

"Ima Liberal" is ugly and stupid and "non-judgmental," which is liberal for ugly and stupid! Haw! 'Course, "John Q. Public" isn't stupid, just uninformed, bless him. But the ugliest, stupidest and everything-baddest of them all is of course Hitlery, and I defy my readers to find anything in the history of Clinton-bashing more garish that this -- it makes Der Sturmer look like The Family Circus.

P.S. Abortion is murder, Kerry is fake, etc. Oh, and to avenge London we're gonna get Osama -- for real this time!

How I would I love to shake hands with all these madcap rascals if they weren't destroying my country.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

CENTRISM -- THE NEW LIBERTARIANISM? Had a look at Donklephant, described by Michael Totten as "centrist." I am interested in centrism, as I am assured it is the coming thing, and sought to understand it through this new site, that I might find out where to buy my nephews some rad centrist gear for next Christmas.

I found:

  • A long article explaining that "not all Europeans are our natural allies" -- that in fact "Anti-Americanism in Western Europe often goes well beyond mere criticism and ventures deep into the territory of vituperative hate-mongering." The author allows that this "has been matched by a nascent and often nasty anti-Europeanism in the United States," and follows up by observing that many Frenchmen "proudly joined the Nazi regime at Vichy" and that Spain has "joined the anti-American French and German alignment and may not ever be anything like a reliable battlefield ally" (though she "never was a reliable battlefield ally in the first place, though, so there’s nothing new there"), etc. Conclusion: the West is not united against terror, but it's not Bush's fault.

  • An author wondering aloud if women really do give a damn about reproductive rights, because Virginia Postrel doesn't, and a female friend of his "wants the Dems or the GOPers to come up with something new to offer her besides control over her body." (Not clear whether by "besides" she meant "along with" or "in place of.")

  • Another author reporting on a House Republican bill that would give grants to stem-cell researchers only if they can do their thing without harming embryos (and is vigorously opposed by stem-cell advocates including Arlen Specter) writes, "Good news stem cell advocates. It looks like a growing number of Republicans are supporting federal funding of increased stem-cell research." This may be sarcasm.

  • Smackdown on Molly Ivins.

  • Smackdown also the BBC's selective use of the term 'terrorist'; the author says that "Conservatives routinely make hay of policy like this," then makes hay of it ("We all know what happens to those who forget the past. What becomes of those who forget the present?")

  • Link to Arianna Huffington parody site post, described as "dead-on Rove caricature." Linked site is silly, transpartisan, and not especially funny. Speaking of which, lots of links to The Garlic, which is ditto.

  • Clinton joke.
To be fair, one writer does criticize the Patriot Act, and it is generally accepted on the site that liberals should be allowed to live. I'll try back in a few months when it goes totally right-wing.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN, EPISODE 782,221. David Ross at Libertas reports on the menace of edible body frosting:
The other day I was shopping in an Eckerd Drug Store and noticed a prominently displayed selection of “deliciously kissable body frostings” endorsed by [Jessica] Simpson. The preponderance of pink sparkles makes it clear that the product’s market is girls let us say between ages nine and thirteen. A little research uncovers an entire line of cosmetics called “Dessert Treats” marketed under the unapologetically salacious slogans “Wear it, then share it” and “Dessert just got even sweeter.” A budding sexual adventuress, for example, might add “Lollipop” body frosting to her sixth-grade sex play...
Also, vibrators etc. are frequently referred to as "sex toys." Toys are what children play with. Therefore vibrators, butt-plugs etc. are being marketed to children. Constable, do your duty!

P.S. And it's about time the Royal Family did something about the Prince Albert.
JUST DON'T YELL "THOMAS!" IN YOUR THROES OF PASSION. You have to wonder whether Christopher Hitchens' heart is in the job anymore. In his latest terror-war fist-shaker, except for his now-traditional condemnation of people who disagree with him as "stupid," Hitchens expends most of his words on Thomas Jefferson. Well, when one's mission is to explicate the work of G.W. Bush to upmarket readers, I can see how, in the long course of contemplation and composition, the bust of one of our more thoughtful Presidents might be more inspiring than Dubya's.

Most of the Jefferson analysis is unobjectionable, even pleasing, but has little to do with the alleged subject, named in the subhead as "Jefferson's ideas presaged the Bush doctrine." While it is true that Jefferson hoped the American example would embolden men to seize freedom, there is no evidence that he wished our soldiers to wander the globe in search of philosophically dissonant states to overthrow. That looks far more like Napoleon's dream than Jefferson's.

Hitchens closes by comparing the Iraq adventure to the First Barbary War:
The most successful "export" was Jefferson's determined use of naval and military force to reduce the Barbary States of the Ottoman Empire, which had set up a slave-taking system of piracy and blackmail along the western coast of North Africa. Our third president was not in a position to enforce regime change in Algiers or Tripoli, but he was able to insist on regime behavior-modification (and thus to put an end to at least one slave system). Ever since then, every major system of tyranny in the world has had to run at least the risk of a confrontation with the United States, and one hopes that the Jeffersonians among us will continue to ensure that this remains true.
When I was a boy American schools still taught history. We were told then that Jefferson sent the Marines to Tripoli because the Barbary pirates kept holding American ships and sailors for ransom, and Jefferson preferred fighting to the payment of tribute. In fact, I see that is still the accepted version.

The pirates, in other words, had directly attacked Americans, and promised to attack still more, and Jefferson responded to those attacks. It is true that Jefferson "was not in a position to enforce regime change in Algiers or Tripoli," but neither was he of a mind to do so -- he was protecting American interests in the most basic terms.

Perhaps in some alterna-history universe -- one, say, in which a bunch of Berbers blow up a warehouse full of New Yorkers, and Jefferson invades some non-piratical North African nation-state in hopes that this nation-state-building example will reform the rest of the region -- there would be some connection between the actions of our third President and those of our forty-third.

Or maybe there is some other version of history left over from Hitchens' socialist days -- some stunning refutation of prior accounts of the Tripolitan War, suppressed by bourgeois historians -- that makes the comparison more clear. Maybe we'll get that clarification is some future installment, to be issued after we've bugged out of Iraq.

Monday, July 11, 2005

KEEP ON BORKING.We've been hearing a lot of pre-emptive criticism of Democrats who wish to have a hand in the process of selecting the next Supreme Court Justice. We have heard the word "Bork," indicating the unfair treatment of a nominee, revived for this purpose.

Thankfully, OpinionJournal has published the latest ravings of the real Judge Bork on "ever-expanding rights" to remind us that, if "Borking" was what kept this lunatic off the Court, then it was a jolly good job:
Contrast Tocqueville with Justices Harry Blackmun and Anthony Kennedy. Justice Blackmun wanted to create a constitutional right to homosexual sodomy because of the asserted " 'moral fact' that a person belongs to himself and not others nor to society as a whole." Justice Kennedy, writing for six justices, did invent that right, declaring that "at the heart of [constitutional] liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." Neither of these vaporings has the remotest basis in the actual Constitution, and neither has any definable meaning other than that a common morality may not be sustained by law if a majority of justices prefer that each individual follow his own desires.
Etc. If they get another one of these guys on the Hill, I really don't care what they do to keep him off.
DEFINING VICTORY DOWNWARD. Last September Michael Totten wrote "Don't Abandon Iraq," agreeing with Victor Davis Hanson that a premature departure from Iraq would lead to Mogadishu Saigon Etcetera.

I guess Iraq must have shaped up quite a lot in the past 10 months (despite outward appearances), because now Totten is open to an early exit; something to do, for all I can tell, with some rope-a-dope strategy of depriving the rebels of a target, and the eerie persuasive powers of Donald Rumsfeld. (Victor Davis Hanson doesn't see it the same way, of course, but he is not a famous moderate, to say the least.)

No word yet as the whether this calls for another "Mission Accomplished" banner, but as word of the new reality spreads it will be interesting (and fun!) to see who lines up and who doesn't.

Friday, July 08, 2005

MORE CARTOON FUN! I see by his latest installment that Mallard Fillmore creator Bruce Tinsley does indeed think that a parody of his strip in Jon Stewart's America: The Book is meant "to deceive people into thinking it was a real one."

Originally I didn't see how anyone with brains enough to breathe could think that, but I understand better now that I've surveyed "Today's Toons" at Free Republic. How have I missed this before? It shall join Photoshop Phridays and as one of my unmissable end-of-week delights.

Tinsley is here, of course, as are several lesser known artists bringing you the latest in anti-Kerry and anti-Kennedy/pro-torture gags. Some panels are surprisingly abstract (this one suggests The Turner Diaries illustrated by Barbara Kruger); some are just book covers; one suggests that Live8 was either part of a "Blame America" movement, or merely waved a torch and emitted intoxication bubbles in the vicinity of a "Blame America" movement.

There is a maudlin British flag thing, of course, with an audio link -- not, I am disappointed to report, to a new version of "Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)" as sung by Alan Rickman and Lulu, but to "God Save the Queen" (pre-Pistols version).

Points for purity to the Howard-Dean-with-crazy-eyes thing, but the palm this week must go to a little animated parody of Valerie Plame on a "Get Smart!" theme -- at the end of which the author takes time to explain the gag to his viewers. If only Jon Stewart worked like that -- Mallard wouldn't have his feathers in such a twist!
TODAY'S SHOWTRIALS! As mentioned here earlier, some conservatives gave big ups to London Mayor Ken Livingstone post-attack speech, but the Ministry of Truth has since informed the comrades of their doctrinal error, and a round of self-criticism is in order:
I posted those comments by Mayor Livingstone yesterday, thinking them good and strong. But I knew absolutely nothing of his politics or past statements. (Since coming to the Corner, I've really expanded my personal library of things I know nothing about -- that is, it's hard to know what you don't know.)...
Applaud the comrade, but let him sit in dunce cup awhile so error is not repeated!

Further down, Kathryn Lopez proposes Rudy Giuliani as "London's Mayor, Too" (on the evidence of a letter Giuliani wrote to the London Times, not from any apparent groundswell of public opinion). Positive imaging is useful! We dream, we plan, we can!

Rather than wish him away, Hurry Up Harry just hopes Comrade Livingstone will become right-wing. In context, that sounds almost reasonable.
PARAGRAPH OF THE WEEK: "Asher B. Durand's 'Kindred Spirits' (1849)... depicts Thomas Cole, the founder of the Hudson River School of painting, with the poet William Cullen Bryant. The two stand along a rock ledge, a tree arching above, a river tumbling below and a hilly vista stretching to the horizon. It's as if, looking out on the scene and imagining America's great potential, they can almost see a Wal-Mart rising in the distance."

That's from a Walton family blowjob in OpinionJournal. The piece is unsigned, but I detect in it the hand of Luis Buñuel.
HOW TO TALK TO YOUR RIGHTWING FRIENDS ABOUT LONDON."You either surrender to it or you defeat it. President Bush knows this, and you hold out hope that the Bush-haters might get it but I don't have much hope in that regard because I think there's so much seething rage and hatred for Bush out there that the majority of the Bush-haters are already gleefully blaming Bush for this, and blaming the war in Iraq for this, and blaming Afghanistan for this, and feeling sorry for Tony Blair that Bush roped in into joining us in Iraq. That's the kind of thing. You can expect it to exist in a free country, but it's going to continue to be an impediment, as those people represent forces who attempt to weaken our ability not only take the offensive but to defend ourselves as well. But here's the interesting thing for those of you on the left to consider. The terrorists today not only attacked civilization. They attacked you. They attacked you liberals, you leftists who may think that you're the ones who have the ability to forge a common understanding." -- Rush Limbaugh
"You're pretty goddamned negative. Do you believe in God?"

"Not your kind of God."

"What kind of God?"

"I'm not sure."

"I've been going to church since I can remember."

I didn't answer.

"Can I buy you a beer?" he asked.


The beers arrived.

"Did you read the papers today."


"Did you hear about those 50 little girls who were burned to death in that Boston orphanage?"


"Wasn't that horrible?"

"I suppose it was."

"You suppose it was?"


"Don't you know?"

"If I had been there I suppose I would have had nightmares about it for the rest of my life. But it's different when you just read about it in the newspapers."

"Don't you feel sorrow for those 50 little girls who burned to death? They were hanging out of the windows screaming."

"I suppose it was horrible. But you see it was just a newspaper headline, a newspaper story. I really didn't think much about it. I turned the page."

"You mean you didn't feel anything about it?"

"Not really."

He sat a moment and had a drink of his beer. Then he screamed, "Hey, here's a guy who says he didn't feel a fucking thing when he read about those 50 orphan girls burning to death in an orphanage in Boston!"

Everyone looked at me. I looked down at my cigarette. There was a moment of silence. Then the woman in the red wig said, "If I was a man I'd kick his ass all up and down the street."

"He doesn't believe in God either! said the man next to me. "He hates baseball. He loves bullfights, and he likes to see little orphan girls burned to death!"

I ordered another beer from the bartender, for myself. He pushed the bottle at me with repugnance. Two young guys were playing pool. The youngest, a big kid in a white T-shirt, laid his stick down and walked over to me. He stood behind me sucking air into his lungs, trying to make his chest bigger.

"This is a nice bar. We don't tolerate assholes here. We kick their butts good, we beat the shit out of them, we beat the living shit out of them!"

I could feel him standing there behind me. I lifted my beer bottle and poured beer into my glass, drank it, lit a cigarette. My hand was perfectly steady. He stood there for some time, then walked back to the pool table. The man who had been sitting next to me got off his stool and moved away. "The son of a bitch is negative," I heard him say. "He hates people."
That's from a Bukowski story called "Beer at the Corner Bar." If you get a chance, read the whole story, and the book it's in, Hot Water Music. Then read everything he ever wrote, poems too. Then read it again.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

DUCK AMUCK. Remember that little "Mallard Fillmore" parody in Jon Stewart's America ("Oops! I forgot to tell a joke!")? The nation's favorite right-wing duck does not seem to recognize it as a parody. In fact, he smells (can ducks smell? Well, "senses" then) an MSM smear job:

"This isn't me!" Fillmore quacks. "I mean, it is me, but Jon Stewart has cut and pasted me into a fake 'Mallard Fillmore' strip... put me in his book and even dated it 'October 1, 1998,' to make it look like this comic strip said stuff it didn't say..."

It would be easy to assume that cartoonist Bruce Tinsley is either unacquainted with the concept of satire (an assumption for which his strip provides daily evidence), or that he has been swept up in the War against the MSM, and recognizes from the behavior of the generals that, when it comes to armament, the creation of smoke and noise means a lot more than scoring a true hit.

But it's only Thursday; maybe Tinsley has a twist ending prepared that plays with objective reality, a la Chuck Jones, revealing a more nuanced view of things. I'm going with that. After all, we are all Britons now; even the least likely of us may have suddenly acquired some wit.
BOMB SQUAD. Condolences to my London friends on the awful attacks Thursday morning. I hope you're safe and stay so.

If you want to follow the bombing news, the best source I've found for updates is the Guardian's news blog. And I thought mainstream news didn't """get""" (*) blogs! Why, they have better info than a Tennessee law perfesser. The citizens' tributes posted there are especially good.

(* that awful usage really requires triple-quotes, as no human now living can use it without evincing at least three layers of alienation from normal speech patterns.)

As for idiocy on the subject, there are sources aplenty, though as usual Goldberg's Frat House holds its own. While the Man Who Would Be Bluto himself seems about two bongs shy of a pantload, speculating muzzily about possible "useful" outcomes, other Cornerites wave Union Jacks and shake fists energetically. "We Are All Brits Now," announces Den Mother Lopez. Funny, I don't remember ever being told that we were all Balinese (have you forgotten October 12?). I vaguely recall being told we were Madrileños, but I think the Ministry of Truth revoked Madrid's status as a Place of Which We All Are shortly thereafter.

I imagine some readers may find it offensive that I am expressing my opinions on even so ancillary an aspect of these bombings as their press coverage without resorting to the seemingly requisite clenched teeth and offers of prayer. My feelings for the horrible deaths of several people I do not personally know are probably about the same as yours. Every man's death diminishes me, whether or not it is on the news, but I try not to intrude upon the funerals of strangers.

For my own part, I am more offended at the cunning use of public tragedy for propaganda purposes. For example, the Perfesser's jape at Ken Livingstone's response to the attacks on his City -- that "they've got even Ken Livingstone sounding Churchillian" -- seems to me appallingly cynical. Red Ken, bless him, is simply being Livingstonian. To talk about his call for solidarity as if it were some sort of deviation from the norm makes no sense, unless your business is to interpret basic human behaviors and emotions in political terms.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

WELL, THERE'S ALWAYS EMINENT DOMAIN IN THE ATLANTIC YARDS. The big news today was New York's Olympic bid, and I gotta say I don't see how they missed from what I heard was in the presentation:

  • Robert DeNiro surprising International Olympic Committee Chairman Kevan Gosper with his knowledge of Gosper's biographical details, including the names of his children and the address of, and security codes to, his home.

  • Mayor Bloomberg throwing fistfuls of money a la Rip Taylor.

  • Billy Crystal breaking down in sobs as he relates his father's heartbreak over never getting to attend a live synchonized swimming event.

  • Donald Trump promising gold shotputs, garishly appointed athletes' quarters, and prostitutes.

  • Muhammed Ali, a large and familiar presence from which nearly all the once formidable strength has been cruelly sapped, now conveyed from place to place by powerful men using his reputation as combination bragging standard and begging bowl; a perfect avatar for our City.

It's London's headache now, and jingos get to laugh at France -- everybody wins! Citizens, carry on.